When Ekaterina Walter moonlights on her job as a social-media strategist at Intel, the results are often edifying.
Not only is Walter a frequent contributor to publications like Fast Company and the Huffington Post, she has a new book out. In Think Like Zuck: The Five Business Secrets of Facebook’s Improbably Brilliant CEO Mark Zuckerberg, which hit bookstores this week, she tells the tale of Facebook’s origins, as well as expands on the secrets to the social network’s success.
Curious? Yeah, so were we. To get the skinny on the iconic young billionaire, we reached out to Walter. Here are a few helpful tidbits we culled especially for young entrepreneurs:
Q: Spoiler alert: What are some of the secrets to Facebook’s success?
A: Follow your passion. Mark’s passion is to make the world more open and connected. You can feel his passion when he talks about the more transparent world. That passion fuels his mission.
Have a clear purpose. Mark’s purpose was (and still is) to create a social utility that would allow connections between people around the world, give them power to speak up, share information, rally behind the causes they care about and, in the process, make the world more transparent.
Build what you believe in. Align your business interests with your personal philosophy. Build the product that will support your purpose. And don’t rush into monetizing your creation. Focus on building the quality product that is useful to its users before diverting focus to revenue.
No one can achieve success alone. So hire people who share your values and beliefs. And hire for attitude: skills can be taught, passion can’t.
Q: What specific lessons will entrepreneurs glean from reading your book?
A: Among other tips, the book suggests that it doesn’t matter where inspiration comes from. Your idea may not be fully original, but always create your masterpiece authentically and with purpose. Also, great companies don’t just create great products, they create movements.
Q: How can entrepreneurs apply those lessons toward their startups?
A: The book is full of stories, lessons, quotes. All of them are about how brands like Facebook, Dyson, TOMS, Apple, Threadless and others have reached success. As an entrepreneur, or an intrapreneur, if you innovate and lead change within a large corporation you can decide to either follow the advice outlined or follow your path. Everyone is different. But I can guarantee that the stories discussed will make you ask yourself: ‘What is my true purpose?’ ‘What kind of a leader am I?’ ‘What culture do I want to build?’
Q: What’s your advice for balancing a product/service with creating social marketing around a brand?
A: All of the successful companies that I’ve seen focused first and foremost on building a great product and creating value for its users/customers. For his part, Zuckerberg was very deliberate in how he rolled out his product to his users across college campuses and then beyond. He ensured that their capacity was able to handle the new demand. He paced his growth on purpose. Once they’ve got a great product/service, it’s time to start marketing. I suggest starting with your most passionate users and partnering with them on word-of-mouth marketing. Marketing is definitely an essential tool of growing the awareness and your business. But putting the cart in front of the horse can be detrimental.
Q: With so many platforms to manage, what strategies can companies use to engage in real ways? Is one platform more important than another?
A: If your resources allow, I would look at multiple networks to expand your reach. But even then, only use applicable platforms. For example, if your main objective is to build relationships with the scrapbooking moms, Pinterest and Facebook would probably be your best platforms. If you are targeting tech enthusiasts, you might look into Google+ and niche forums where they discuss highly technical topics.
Related: 4 Tips to Avoid Co-Founder Conflict
But if your resources are limited, focus on building an engaging community on just one network. Then, creating relevant content, responding in real-time and providing constant value will help you engage more customers.
Q: What’s the biggest trend we’ll see in 2013 and what tips do you have for entrepreneurs to take advantage of this?
A: Analytics will become more sophisticated, more useful and will be integrated into more services. With the amount of data that’s out there, it will be necessary to have tools to analyze data more efficiently and much faster. As a result, decision-making cycles will get shorter.
-This interview was edited for clarity and brevity.